NaNoWriMo: Week Four

This is it! The final week has arrived, and by Friday, I’ll hopefully have another novel first draft under my belt (my eighth!). I’m close to the end of the story now — the prince has been found out, Rapunzel’s hair is cut, and the witch’s backstory has been revealed. All that’s left is some wandering in the wilderness, some babies, and a reunion. I hope that I’ll actually be able to type “the end” and not just hit 50,000 words, because I agree with Chris Baty that there’s something magic about November — and if you don’t finish in the frenzy, you may not ever finish. I never looked at my incomplete novel from last year after putting in the 50,000 words, and that seems like a shame (especially since, being away from it for so long, I’m actually sort of scared to look at it now. I don’t even remember where I left off).

Because with a completed draft, the prospect of revising is so much more enticing. This novel may take almost as much revising as Ever This Day did, although I didn’t know what a beast ETD would be to revise when I was writing it. (It took one month to write and almost two years to revise). I forge ahead trying to be comfortable with the fact that I might be getting it all wrong. I’ve learned more through trial and error in this novel than usual, since there’s no time to carefully consider the best way to tell the story when you need to get out nearly 2,000 words a day. Between the weekend and today, I changed a setting mid-scene. I haven’t resorted to switching character perspectives yet, and I’m glad about that. I’m starting to think a unified story with only Rapunzel’s point of view might be best after all.

The witch is what most intrigues me about this piece, and I need more than a month to untangle the subtleties of her psyche and her relationship with Rapunzel. Actions that seem quite straightforward in the fairy tale — she is so filled with rage that she cuts Rapunzel’s hair — are not so straightforward once you’ve given both characters more depth. It’s a challenge to remain true to the cornerstones of the fairy tale without reducing those scenes to melodrama. Fairy tale characters are archetypes foremost, and attempting to flesh them out into full human beings is tricky. Knowing I can do away with certain aspects of the traditional tale for my retelling is tempting, too, sometimes too tempting. What if two princes visit Rapunzel instead of just one? What if she falls in love with the wrong one? What if she falls in love with a commoner instead after he expulsion? What if she and the prince never do reunite?

Some of the more outlandish ideas I have alarm me with the sheer amount of overhaul they’d require of the original tale and what I’ve written so far. But I look forward to wrestling with these questions in the months ahead. (First, however, I have to return to my dear Rumplestiltskin for a more worthy ending to his story.)

Life does not stop for novel-writing! The second half of the month has been particularly busy, as I finally finished cleaning out all the remnants of my presence in my old house — a large part of which was packing up massive boxes of drafts and old writing. Looking at all those pages, I felt a little in awe that I still haven’t hit the 10,000 hours Malcolm Gladwell claims are necessary for true mastery. We’re still finishing the basement in my house, and then it will be time for, The Move In, Part II. I was hoping I might finish the Rapunzel novel from my new office, but that might be pushing it. This last week has been so full of family and moving and work and even a migraine that, were it not November, I would have given myself a break on writing several days in a row. It’s probably good that NaNoWriMo reminds me that I don’t have to bend to that temptation — I got some good writing in, despite feeling too tired some nights to even open my computer. Still, that doesn’t mean I won’t be relieved when it’s all done!

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